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How to Measure Progress with Nutrition Beyond Inches and Pounds (guest)

While I’m traveling in Italy, I will be sharing guest posts written by a few incredible women! This post was written by Paige Smathers, RDN, CD, one of my favorite registered dietitians whose work is centered around mindful nutrition and body acceptance. She provides individual nutrition therapy and online courses at Positive Nutrition®.

Relying on numbers as a barometer for success with your nutrition and eating is tricky business. It’s asking for trouble when you step on the scale to decide what type of day you’re going to have. It can look like this: Am I up a pound? Okay, it’s going to be a bad day. Am I down today? Okay, that means I can have a good day.

Honestly, I wouldn’t wish that life on anyone! Your body is a complicated, beautiful, sophisticated entity—and, leaning on the measurement of the earth’s gravitational pull on your body as a measurement of your worth as a human being or the type of day you’re going to have is futile. Don’t fall into this trap!

I can understand why it’s tempting to buy into the idea that measuring success with numbers will bring ultimate peace and well-being. After all, this is what we’re sold in the media and through advertising. But, the truth is: at best, measuring your “success” with numbers is not helpful. At worst, measuring your progress or worth as a human being with pounds and inches can be downright harmful, and sometimes even deadly.

Unfortunately, as a culture, we talk about nutrition in all the wrong ways. We often assume that being healthy is all about tracking numbers. There are countless reasons to walk away from rigid dieting and measuring progress through pounds and inches. This approach to nutrition and food really only leads to long-term weight gain, binge eating, and an increased risk for eating disorders.

So if you’re on the non-diet train, aiming to honor your body’s needs and rejecting rigid dieting rules, how do you measure progress? How can you assess how you’re doing with your nutrition and health when you reject the idea that health and nutrition are all about numbers?

Here are some ideas for recognizing your wins and progress when you’re not dieting or trying to manipulate your body:

  1. Improved energy levels. Do you notice you have more energy and excitement for the things in life that are most important to you? Are you able to connect to the things, people and moments that are most important in your life? If you notice improved energy levels and more vitality for life, give food and your nourishment some credit! Without adequate nourishment, it’s difficult to have adequate energy levels for the activities of daily life.
  2. Being more present in your life. Do you notice you have more time, energy, and brain power these days? When you’re dieting, it’s not uncommon to spend the majority of your waking hours thinking about food and as a result, not being as present in your life as you’d like. If you’re noticing you’re able to be present and experience your life in the now, give food some credit! You’re doing something right.
  3. Improved mood. Are you easier to be around now that you’re nourishing your body adequately? Do you feel more present, engaged, and hopeful? If so, that’s a sign of success and progress with your eating.
  4. Smiling more. Are you a happier person these days now that you are nourished? Is it easier and more natural to smile and to connect to people you care about in meaningful ways? Improved mood and smiling more often are common positive side effects of healing your relationship with food and finding a more positive, sustainable approach to feeding yourself.
  5. Thinking/obsessing about food less. Do you recognize that you have more of your precious time and energy back now that you’ve rejected dieting? It’s not uncommon to notice the liberating feeling of more time and energy for the important things in life with moving away from rigid diets rather than constant food and body worry when dieting and manipulating your body.
  6. More flexibility around food choices. Are you able to say yes to social eating opportunities more? Are you more trusting that you’ll get what you need and able to trust that your body likes averages? If so, give yourself some credit! Approaching food in a healthy, positive and sustainable way brings more flexibility with food and with life in general and opens up opportunities to connect with the people you hold most dear.

These may or may not be true for you and that’s okay! These are just some ideas to get you started. Taking a minute to celebrate your wins, big or small, is a powerful way to continue to move in the right direction and progress with your relationship with food.

Paige Smathers, RDN, CD is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice and podcaster whose work revolves around helping people heal their relationships with food and their body. She specializes in chronic dieting, addiction recovery nutrition, eating disorders and family feeding dynamics. Her approach to nutrition and health is grounded in mindfulness and is rooted in the intuitive eating and Health at Every Size frameworks. She is the owner of Positive Nutrition®, which provides individual nutrition therapy, online courses, and mentorship and coaching for professionals. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook for more food for thought!

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